Residents Prepare to Evacuate as Hurricane Michael Heads Toward Florida Panhandle

Christopher Davidson
October 11, 2018

Commercial boats leave the Destin Harbor in Destin, Florida, ahead of Hurricane Michael. The storm is now a Category 4, which The Weather Channel warns will cause a "catastrophic storm surge".

On its current track, Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico throughout Tuesday and then move inland over the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday, according to the hurricane center.

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you", Escambia county sheriff David Morgan said in a statement.

A hurricane hunter plane that bounced into the swirling eye of Michael off the western tip of Cuba late Monday found wind speeds were rising even as forecasters warned the storm could reach major hurricane status with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph) by Tuesday night.

The storm then looks destined to move through the southeast US on Thursday as a tropical storm, bringing heavy rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, before moving back out to the Atlantic on Friday.

Wakulla County issued a dire warning, saying it won't open any of its shelters - because they're safety-rated only for storms up to Category 2 strength, WFSU reports.

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Tallahassee International Airport ‏is suspending commercial flight activity as 12:01 a.m. ET on Wednesday but expects to resume activity on Thursday. Following Hurricane Irma a year ago, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning. Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 140 miles per hour (225 kph) with higher gusts.

Tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area along the southeast USA coast by Wednesday, and possible in the watch area by late Wednesday.

Michael is now a strong category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles (280 kilometers).

Coastal residents rushed to board up their homes and sandbag their properties against the fast-moving hurricane, which was expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday along a relatively lightly populated stretch of shoreline known for its fishing villages and white-sand spring-break beaches.

Michael is not expected to be a reprise of Florence, which pummeled the state for several days, producing record rainfall and river flooding, and has been blamed on 40 deaths in the state. The remainder of Georgia, the Carolinas, and southern Virginia...3 to 6 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia have declared states of emergency in all or parts of the states. Next complete advisory at 400 AM CDT.

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